When Buzzy Budlong dreams, he dreams of paddling. He dreams of paddling in unexplored waterways and experiencing local life. He dreams of crossing between islands and traversing open water. And he makes those dreams come true.
To start off 2016, Buzzy set off on his F5 Cebu Paddle Expedition. The plan was to paddle and sail along the west coast of Cebu island, covering about 260 kilometers from Maya in Daan Bantayan in the north, all the way to Santander in the south. The expedition stopped at 5 destinations, which each leg using a different type of watercraft for each of the 5 days. We all couldn’t accompany Buzzy on his epic journey, but we did supply him with our UPF50+ hooded rash guards and leggings, our brand new aqua shoes, and some dry bags. Here’s a lowdown of the expedition.
How long have you had this idea, and what finally pushed you to make it happen?
I started visualizing this kind of expedition as early as 10 years ago since it can strongly drive my advocacy of making Cebu as the “paddling capital of the Philippines”, but I knew then that the timing was not yet right. But with all the skills I’ve gained the past years, plus the current availability of equipment made me decide to finally push for it.
Why did you choose the 5 watercraft, and how did you decide which watercraft would be used on each section of the journey?
The selection of the 5 watercrafts was based on both familiarity and difficulty. There are some that I’ve mastered and some that remain to be challenging for me. Each watercraft requires a different skill set, technique, and paddle stroke based on its design and discipline. For example, the design of the longer crafts make them good for long distance paddling, and so those were tagged for those stretches.
Which was your favorite watercraft during the journey? Why?
I’d say the Alcyone Tikarol SUP because I designed and developed it myself for the expedition, to cater to the strong current and wind in the northern tip of Cebu. But I also like the Bigiw because it’s a local craft that’s capable of gliding through the tricky section of the route on the last day. This day also happened to be the day with the one with the longest distance to travel.
How many people were with you “behind the scenes” and what were their roles/assignments?
F5 can actually also pertain to the 5 crew members :) Randy Salazar is our safety manager, Walter Bandigan is our water rescuer, Karl San Pablo is our SUP clinic instructor, Angelo Ongchua is our photographer and videographer and lastly, Cristine Yap Garnace is our admin and LGU coordinator. Each of them came from different backgrounds but we all share the love for the water and in making more people aware of paddle sports. But there’s actually a 6th crew member—Gary Benedicto was our SUP clinic demonstrator and cheerleader.
What were the reactions of locals at your stops? Cite a few examples.
The locals are so happy and excited to try the paddle boards during the clinics. You can see the smiles on their faces from just seeing the watercrafts. Interestingly, different towns have different local names for the watercrafts, such sakayan, barko, pamboat, baruto and surfing. Around a hundred locals participated in the free paddle clinics, not just the kids, there were also some senior citizens who tried SUP. It was good to be able to promote paddle sports, fitness, tourism, and environmental preservation at each stop.
How important is wearing/using the right gear/apparel for this type of expedition?
The gears did not just serve as weather protection but also wearing the right technical gears enabled me to freely move and paddle efficiently. I specifically like the hooded rash guards and the one with the attached visor. Even the colors of the gears are important as you need to be visible in case something unexpected happens.
So what was the most unexpected thing that happened on the journey?
I actually capsized 7 times! It tells me that despite the great skill and practice, one should still always prepare for the worst. Surprisingly also, I did not capsize on the bigiw.
What was the most difficult part of the journey?
The final day was the toughest because of course, I’m already beaten up after four days of paddling plus the fact that I’m using the bigiw which is a watercraft that I didn’t have enough time to master. It’s also a long downwind discipline and it is my first time to do it at that distance with high waves, swells and strong wind in a narrow strait.
Is this type of adventure (distance paddling) something that you would encourage common tourists to try? Why yes, or why not?
No, not immediately, because you need to have the right skills. But SUP is something that beginners can easily learn if they want to be introduced to the water and paddling. That’s why the paddle clinics also focused on SUP.
What adventure are you cooking up next?
We will continue to spread the awareness on paddle sports and on how it contributes to tourism, fitness and survival. I wanted to conduct paddle races for the kids in schools that are near the seas. Some say I should do an expedition on the east side of Cebu since west side has already been done. I’m also thinking of paddling along the mystic Agusan Marsh and River as well as the west side of Palawan and experience 30 scenic sunsets in that expedition.
More About Buzzy
Buzzy is the only Filipino to traverse the length of the Philippine archipelago on a kayak. From Saranggani in the south, all the way to Pagudpud in the north, he and Singaporean adventurer Khoo Swee Chow paddled the grueling 3,000+ kilometers for a total of 88 days in 2009. That expedition was also supported by Blood Red.